Exile and Political Engagement: Voting

This post is part of a series (Post 1: Introduction and OutlinePost 2: Four Key Principles for Christian Political EngagementPost 3: Submission and TaxesPost 4: Government Service, Post 5: Justice and Advocacy)

Voting

We now come to the question of voting for politicians. Since this practice was not known during biblical times it was not addressed in Scripture. The idea that private, ordinary, citizens would have a voice in who would rule the nation, or what the laws would be, was unknown to the Jews or the early Christians. But today we are afforded the opportunity to have a say in the nature of our government and the individuals who lead it.

I believe that Christians should vote, just as Christians should we willing to engage in the kinds of advocacy listed above. The reason, as has already been stated, is because of a love for neighbor. That is, we vote not to gain power, but because we realize that a civil government, when functioning properly, can be a force for good in the world and because we realize that a civil government, when corrupt and unjust, can also be a force for great evil. And so, out of love for neighbor, we seek a government which will function within those God-given parameters.

How a Christian should vote is another question. I am simply arguing that a Christian should vote and that the motivation for that vote should be a love of neighbor.

Two objections may be raised. The first is that it is often difficult to tell how to vote. The world is exceedingly complex and citizens are often asked to make judgments about things for which they have very little or very biased information such as foreign affairs or economic principles. Indeed, it can become overwhelming or discouraging to watch the news or follow the debates during the political season. How can we possibly make responsible voting choices in such an environment? Besides, aren’t there much more important things that we can do in order to love our neighbors with the precious little time that we have? I am sympathetic to this argument, but I would argue that we should vote on what knowledge we do have and then continue to work towards a greater level of knowledge.

The second argument points back to the sovereignty of God. If God controls the outcome of the election, which he does, then why vote at all? But this argument could be used for anything. If God is in control why pray? If God provides for my needs then why work? If God takes care of the church, then why serve in the church? The answer is that God invites us to participate with him as he carries out his will. God will carry out his sovereign will, but we are commanded to walk in line with his moral will. We obey God because obedience is what leads to life and glorifies God, not necessarily because we think it will change the world. World-changing is part of God’s job description. Obedience and responsible love for neighbor is part of ours, and voting is one way we can do that.

Additional note: It was observed during the Sunday night discussion that the Christian duties mentioned – work, prayer, and service in the church – are all commands given in Scripture but that voting is not. This is a good observation. I come to the conclusion that Christians should vote via the command to love neighbor, with this being one way to carry out that command. You could get to the same conclusion by following that logic that voting is a means of carrying out the command to honor our civil authorities. Both are, admittedly, points of application on a theme and are therefore not at the same level as the Christian duties mentioned above.

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